An international design competition was held in the UK for a National Memorial to honour the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution. The Memorial’s site is in Victoria Tower Gardens alongside the Houses of Parliament and adjacent to the River Thames.
The subtlety of our design gradually reveals the power of the opposing forces that created the descent into a horror of hitherto unimaginable scale, and a humanity of unlimited compassion and selfless commitment.
Our response centres on two themes: immeasurable loss and emptiness, represented in a design that is a void in the landscape, the presence of absence; and, secondly, the theme from light to darkness and from darkness to light. This represents the descent from discrimination to destruction and utter despair to hope.
The Holocaust Memorial is to be entered into and experienced. Sombre and solemn, the Memorial embraces visitors in its dark walls, bringing them to a place where distractions are excluded.
Circling the heart of the Memorial, the gently sloped helical ramp takes visitors past a recitation of the names of the most notorious death and concentration camps. The cast-iron walls of the enclosure are textured with a bas-relief of six million small rectangular nuggets, providing some comprehension of the magnitude of the Holocaust’s toll.
Sunken about three and a half metres below grade is the Court of Conscience. While the inwardly canted walls are enveloping, the Court is open to the sky, and frames a view of Victoria Tower, a singular icon of democratic values and tolerance.
The inclusiveness of this memorial is intended to rekindle hope for all those threatened, regardless of belief, ethnicity or gender, for it is manifestly clear that the bell tolls for all of us, even if at times it seems to toll only for others.